March 13, 1896 - Sarah Waters' Diary

Mother and I started working for Mr. Faulkner again today. It has been almost six months since we last labored in his laundry house. I do not mind the work, it is not demanding of the mind only the body. My hands will be dry and raw from the soap and cold water in only a few days.

Still such work can be rewarding. I spend much of the time thinking about anything but what I am doing. Today my mind kept daydreaming about attending Primrose College. As much as I wish to forget about it as a silly dream I find I cannot let it go. Were I led by my heart instead of my head I would already be train bound for Rhode Island.

Such were my thoughts late morning while I was scrubbing shirts. Mrs. Rainer came through the open doorway and were it not for the barely suppressed sniffles I would have paid little mind to her. She was obviously upset. She stopped only a few steps inside the laundry and began looking around almost frantically. I was about to stop what I was doing and go to her when I noticed her gaze lock upon my mother.

She moved with purpose toward her and leaned down to whisper in mother’s ear. Mother’s face went white and I had a sinking feeling the pit of my stomach that something had gone horribly, disastrously wrong. Our eyes locked across the room. I started to drop the shirt in my hand and move toward her but she shook her head no. It took all my self discipline to stand my ground and continue washing shirts as mother and Mrs. Rainer left together.

It was not until hours later that I learned what was whispered. I left the laundry at six. I was tired. My hands were cold and sore from scrubbing. My legs and feet were almost too weary to carry me the quarter mile to home. I had almost forgotten about Mrs. Rainer and mother and it was only mother’s absence on my journey home that brought it back to the forefront of my thoughts. I could not imagine what it was that would have Mrs. Rainer so upset and would frighten my mother so.

I was within sight of home when Mr. Clark, our neighbor called out to me.

“Sarah! What news do you have?” He called from the short distance between us.

“Good evening, sir.” I replied courteously.

He walked toward me and I changed my direction so to meet him halfway. The look on his face was an odd mixture of sympathy and concern, the reason for which eluded me.

“Did your father make it out?” He asked softly when we were face to face.

“Make it out? I don’t understand. Make it out of where?”

“My God dear. Has no one told you? There was a collapse at the mine this morning.”

I stared blankly at him. The whisper in mother’s ear now rang like thunder in mine.

The world began to spin. My head felt it would soon explode. The noise of the world became a distant echo. Far away I heard my name being called. My breath caught in my throat and just when I thought my heart should explode, tears burst from my eyes and I fell to the ground.

Mr. Clark must have carried me inside. I cannot recall it but when I next was lucid, he was there sitting next to me, a cup of water in his steady hand. He offered it to me without a word, only the same sympathetic smile from before. I tried to sit up and the room turned.

“Not so fast, young lady. You took quite a spill there.” His voice calmed me some and his gentle hand on my arm steadied me and the room.

I took the cup from his hand and drank deeply. The water cleared my head. The initial shock faded away. I started to process the information and realize there were questions to be asked.

“You said there was a collapse at the mine?” I asked carefully.


“How much do you know?”

“Not a lot. The entry to one of the older shafts collapsed around ten this morning. Scuttle is there were twelve men trapped. Jesse Adams, Cliff Owens and Mike Williams are the only names I have heard for certain. It is the shaft your father was working and all of those men are on his crew.”

“I need to go.” I said with conviction.

I could see Mr. Clark was far from agreeing with me but as he looked me in the eye he must have realized arguing was senseless. Instead he took a different approach.

“What will you do?” He asked.

“Whatever I can.” I whispered. A moment later I knew what I had to do. “I will make a meal for the miners. They will not be going home but they still will need breaks and a meal will help keep their strength up.”

Mr. Clark looked surprised but he nodded in agreement.

“I am at your service. If you need anything you must only ask.”

“Thank you. I would be most appreciative if you would take me to the mine when I am ready?”

“Consider it done. I will have the wagon and horses ready within the hour.” He smiled as he stood up.

I made my way carefully to the kitchen, still feeling a little woozy. I grabbed the large cast iron pot we normally use for heating bath water and placed it over the wood fire. I filled it three quarters full of water and then I raided the cupboard for vegetables. It was not much, four carrots, two potatoes, and an onion. I would have loved to have added some meat or something of more sustenance but this would have to do.

It was nearly an hour later and almost eight in the evening when Mr. Clark helped me place the pot in his wagon and we set off for the mine. I was doing my best to remain calm and oddly my mind wandered to an old story Mr. Stone had once told me when I was small. It was about an old man who traveled from town to town delivering good will in hard times. It came in the shape of a meal he called stone soup.
My pot was not carrying the old man’s magic stone but I had to believe it would still bring good will.

When we arrived, Mr. Clark and I turned his wagon into a make-shift slop house. The tired miners soon made their way to us and a few of the wives settled in to help serve up my watery soup. Someone turned up with some bread and began rationing it out with each bowl as well. Not much was said, a few words or gratitude from the hungry and tired but no one was talking about the reason we were there.

My thoughts lingered strongly on my father. I desperately wanted to ask about him. I knew it was selfish and immature but I could not shake the thoughts from my head. Was he trapped inside or was he working frantically to free his friends? Where was my mother? Was it a bad sign that she was not nearby? I stared blankly at the men passing through the line as I ladled their soup. The mood seemed darker than the night sky and hope was a flickering candlelight starved for air.

And then I saw him.

He was covered in black from head to boots. His faced was streaked clean in spots where sweat had ran from his forehead. As he came closer I could see his eyes were tired and his shoulders were slumped, but there was something in his stance, the way he moved, that revealed the steely determination I have long admired in my father.

There was something about my father in that moment which will stay forever in my memory. It was like I was really seeing him for the first time in my life. He was not just my father, nor just a man. He was a leader, a tired hero whose resolve would never be known by more than a few but the world is a better place because of him just the same.

He walked toward me. I think he might have been confused to see me, but he said nothing. I handed him his bowl. He looked me in the eye for just a moment and in his eyes I could feel his strength. It passed from him to me and with it came determination anew to do what I could to matter.

That was nearly three hours ago. I will rest soon for a few hours. The day's events have worn me down as they have us all. The men are working in shifts through the night to clear the blocked passage in the mine. They will not stop until they succeed. I know this without any doubt because I know my father will not let it be any other way.

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